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President Zuma’s Corruption Has Made Democracy In South Africa A Joke

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By Pamela Eapen

South Africa, for anyone who hasn’t been watching, has been going through one of the most hysterical corruption circuses we’ve seen in a long time. First, there was President Jacob Zuma’s misappropriation of state funds to upgrade his private homestead, Nkandla, and his refusal to adhere to the public protector report, which advised him to pay a portion back to the state. Since then, he’s managed to get his police minister to wriggle him out of having to pay any money back, step on some important ally toes, and watch his country’s sporting reputation crash and burn with the recent revelation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup bribery scandal.

Source: Wikimedia commons
Source: Wikimedia commons

Jacob Zuma has been dancing around the law since he rose to democratic rule – and the past month saw him add parliamentary comedy to his list of cultural talents. Following Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s verdict that Zuma would not have to pay back any of the money he used to upgrade Nkandla (this in direct conflict with public protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s official report), his ludicrous suggestions that even more money would be needed for further upgrades, as well as his laughable efforts at justifying the presence of a R3.9m “firepool”, Zuma proceeded to make a mockery of not just the opposition party, but the nation as a whole, in parliament. Ignoring the fact that he had swindled money from taxpayers, he chose instead to mimic and ridicule opposition party members who pronounce “Nkandla” incorrectly. (I will admit, however, that the scene is hilarious. The man has a gift for stand-up.)

Not everyone in the ANC (African National Congress, the ruling party) is in agreement with Zuma, though. The ANC’s Gauteng chairperson, Paul Mashatile, has stated that the ANC as a party does not agree with Nhleko’s report absolving Zuma of returning the money. This contradicts the statement of chief whip Stone Sizani, who had agreed with the police minister over the public protector. Recently, an ad-hoc committee was elected to consider the police minister’s report on Nkandla, despite the fact that opposition party members protested the motion. The committee is expected to bring back their findings in early August – which means we have another controversial report to wait on.

And speaking of reports, we have yet to hear from Zuma with regards to the Marikana massacre, or if anyone will even be held accountable for it. EFF (Economic Freedom Fighter, an opposition party) leader Julius Malema has declared his party’s intention to launch a private prosecution of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa if he was not charged over Marikana.

The pièce de résistance of this prolonged corruption farce has been that of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Following the arrest of FIFA officials by the FBI for wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, it has been revealed that South African officials donated $10m to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, FIFA vice-president at the time, and one of the 14 arrested FIFA officials. This money was supposedly intended to support football development in the Caribbean, but which was later found to have been used by Jack Warner to settle personal financial affairs.

South African Football Association (SAFA) President Danny Jordaan, as well as Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, have vehemently denied that the money was a bribe – prompting hilarity to ensue on Twitter, with the hashtag #denyeverything. However, Tokyo Sexwale, who had been a member of the 2010 FIFA World Cup organising committee, has questioned the lack of documents and paperwork that would prove that the money had indeed been a donation. It does all look terribly fishy, especially when claims surfaced that Morocco, and not South Africa, would have won the bid for the World Cup before it was rigged in South Africa’s favour.

South Africans are a nation of people that generally have a good sense of humour about everything, whether the actual events are funny or not. Even while we took offense to his remarks, we were able to chuckle at the President’s antics in court, as well as his lackeys’ frantic efforts to justify their leader’s chicken kraal expenditure. However, our humour and our patience are both running thin. There are only so many transgressions officials can commit; only so many reports the President can withhold or refute; before the people revolt. We’re told we live in a democracy and that we have a right to be treated as equally as the next citizen, whether that be the man on the street, or the President in his amphitheatre-adorned palace. It’s about time we saw that democracy in action instead of the extravaganza we’ve been being treated to for the past decade.

Now, about that Pistorius fellow who’s getting out of prison early…

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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